New ‘Little Library’ encourages reading at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Academy

Photo by Chris Sykes
Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Academy Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization President Donnya Johnson-Brown, left, stands with her daughter outside the school on Thursday, Oct. 12, to mark the grand opening of the new Little Library to encourage and facilitate reading among students.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Students at Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Academy Elementary School in East Orange now have a “Little Library” located on the side of the school building on Midland Avenue to go with the regular school library inside the institution, thanks to Parent Teacher Organization President Donnya Johnson-Brown and the other parents.

“We’re the first school in the district to have a Little Library,” said Brown on Thursday, Oct. 12. “The Little Library is for the students to be able to have a 24-hour book exchange. They bring a book, the take a book and they maintain the library. The library should always have books inside of it, so we just wanted to do a ribbon-cutting ceremony today for that.”

Maintaining a library of any size sounds as if it would be a lot of work for elementary school children, but Brown’s daughter, Addisyn, 6, a first-grader at Cochran Academy, believes she and her classmates are up to the task. In fact, they said they don’t view it as a job at all, because they love books and reading so much.

“My favorite subject is writing, because I like to write stories,” said Addisyn on Thursday, Oct. 12. “I like to read stories. I want to read a cookbook, because I want to make a ham sandwich.”

Addisyn’s friends and classmates, Natia Maloney, 6, and her brother, Zayd Maloney, 5, also said they love to read and write and promised to take very good care of their new Little Library. That promise was a very good thing, since the new library is located right across the street from their home on Midland Avenue.

“I like to read, too. I like Dr. Seuss,” said Zayd on Thursday, Oct. 12

Natia likes “princess books,” because she said she would like to be a princess and have a crown.

“Reading is fun,” she said Thursday, Oct. 12. “Books are good, because they have stories and you can read them. I like the new library.”

Natia and Zayd’s mother, Sheree Bryan, said she believes the new Little Library, which resembles “a birdhouse for books” nestled on the side of the school right across the street, is a good idea that will promote reading to her children, as well as with the other students at the school.

“The secret to getting kids to read is giving them books that they like. Once you make it fun, they will do it. I got my son to read with football,” said Bryan on Thursday, Oct. 12. “I’ve been a member of the PTO for about two or three years and I got involved because of our new president; she’s the best. I think the new Little Library is a perfect idea, because the kids can get books any time they want and return them. Nobody goes over there but the kids and, if they do, then I’m watching them.”

Brown said she’s glad the Little Library has a guardian such as Bryan, which guarantees it will be a success for all their children for a very long time.

“They put their books in and they take their books out,” said Brown. “The Little Library, they were able to donate the books today, they were able to participate putting the books in, getting it organized and they’re going to enjoy it, because it’s what they did. Kids enjoy what they do. As long as you make it fun, they will do it.”

Principal Ralph Jacob agreed with Robinson and Bryan. He said he supports the PTO and the new Little Library for all the reasons they gave, and a few more.

“It’s great. It’s a PTO project. It was their idea that they came up with, in collaboration with our library media specialist,” said Jacob on Tuesday, Oct. 31. “We want to make reading fun and enjoyable. The students look at it as a fun thing. They can go into that library at any time. The only requirement is that they replace the book with a book. And they have access to it at all times.”